tv Andrea Mitchell Reports MSNBC December 11, 2012 10:00am-11:00am PST
how are those behind the scenes talks going between president obama and the speaker? >> i want people to know that the president and i met on sunday. it was a nice meeting. it was cordal. we're still waiting for the white house to identify what spending cuts the president is willing to make as part of the balanced approach that he promised the american people. you know, where are the president's spending cuts? >> flash point, syria. has assad backed off his chemical weapons threat? >> we haven't seen anything new for aggressive steps to move forward in that way. >> and hair envy. what will harry reid miss most about retired senator ben nelson? >> he had a lot of real hair.
it's often that people call his office -- they believe he has a toupe. it's his hair. he will pull it for every time just to show you that it's real. i mean, he has hair like a 15-year-old, mr. president, and so i have to acknowledge i am a little envious of his hair. ♪ i want it long, straight, curly, fuzzy ♪ >> you wonder why we don't have a budget deal yet. good day. i'm andrea mitchell live in washington, and first it was ohio. then, indiana i understand and wisconsin. now the labor mooumt is fighting for its rights in lansing, michigan. out in the cold voicing outrage on the steps of the statehouse over right to work legislation that governor rick snyder says he will be signing when it reaches his desk likely tomorrow. joining me now nbc's ron mott live in lansing. ron, what is the latest, and how did this come to a head so quickly in michigan? >> reporter: it came together very quickly, andrea. good day to you. it's a cold day out here, but
these folks are very fired up. they don't like the way that this legislation was pushed through the statehouse here. they believe that this was a republican strategy to go through a lame-duck session. they know they've got a little more democratic leaning legislature coming here next month, and they figure that this was the most opportune time to push this legislation through. a very small window of time to actually debate the issue, and then as you mention, tomorrow governor snyder is expected to sign this into law, making michigan the 24th right to work state. i spoke with the head of the chamber here in michigan just a few moments ago. he says that this is actually not only good for the worker, but also employers. this is going to make michigan a little more pro-business, that there are a lot of projects on the horizon, that they want to be a player here many michigan, and i believe that this legislation is going to put them on the playing field with some of the surrounding states. indiana, as you mentioned. the union workers here believe that this is an attempt by governor snyder and republicans to break the back of the union and that a lot of nonmembers are
going to actually benefit from generations much hard work that these union members have put in overtime, andrea. >> ron mott right in the middle of all of it out there in lansing, and joining me now from inside the statehouse, of course, the michigan governor rick snyder. governor snyder, thank you very much for joining us. tell me why now and why this issue, why take this on? this is not what you campaigned on. >> no. i appreciate that, andrea. it really goes back to last summertime. the labor movement, labor leaders were pushing forward something called proposal 2. they were doing signatures to put on it the ballot, which would have been a massive overreach into michigan's constitution regarding collective bargaining. i believe in collective bargaining, but this was way over the top, and i asked him not to go forward, and the reasons i said is you are going to start a very divisive discussion regarding collective bargaining first, but it also will get into right to work. it will create a big stir about right to work in addition to collective bargaining. the voters spoke in november and dramatically voted down proposal two, but then this right to work
discussion just continued to escalate and was becoming very divisive. the way i viewed it, it's on the table. it's a hot issue. let's show some leadership, so i stepped up to say when i review it, i think it's a good thing. it's about being pro-worker and giving freedom of choice to workers and then secondly, it was mentioned in the earlier report, it's about economic development. we will get more and better jobs coming to michigan because we're going to be more competitive. >> all the data show that they are going to be lower wage jobs, that there's a real distinction between right to work states and other states, and these are the private sector jobs. not just the public sector jobs. there was an argument that was made fairly effectively in wisconsin and other places about teachers and other public sector employees, but here you have the autoworkers who gave back a lot of their benefits in order to help rescue the auto industry. why punish autoworkers who have already shown they're willing to cooperate with management? >> well, i think it's important to make a distinction with wisconsin and ohio. that was about collective
bargaining. that was about the relationship between employers and unions. this is nothing to do with that. right to work is about the relationship between the union and workers. this is about being pro-workers. giving workers the choice. if anything, this should encourage unions to be more responsive to workers in terms of saying they need to show a valued proposition of why they're a great place to join, and i have met a number of people that say they would like to choose to join the union or have the flexibility not to, and they believe they'll get better accountable from unions. in many residents it could be a longer -- this is something that, again, it's stepping up for workers. this is not to interfere in employer relationships at all. >> the workers, of course, feel that it's union busting and it is interfering with their relationships. you had said that you think it is divisive, that it's not something you sought. you had higher priorities. you said this just on friday. why sign it? it's apparently going to hit your desk tomorrow. are you still determined to sign it? >> yes, i am, because, again, it had reached critical mass in terms of being a dif icive issue in our state. again, if you look bab to where
michigan was, we were at the bottom for the last decade. we've lost over 760,000 jobs. since i came to office, we've gained 141,000 back. we've done tax reform, budgets have been balanced, we're paying down debt. a lot of good things. we've become very competitive, and this is another step in that process to say let's give our workers the choice, and when you look at indiana and see what they've achieved since february when they did similar legislation, they've gotten thousands of jobs coming to indiana because of this issue. >> governor, one of the issues is it's a lame-duck session. you have more republicans supporting this measure. why push this through in a lame-duck session? why not let it be aired after the next legislature comes in and there will be more democrats? isn't that fair? >> i didn't view any of us to get into the politics of it. this is a policy issue that came about because, again, the proposal 2 went down, and we had a large scale discussion going on, a very divisive issue that
in my view to say it's on the table and make decisions and move forward. there's been a lot of discussions on the right to work in michigan for many years. over the last month or so people in michigan know about this issue, and there's been lots of ways to contact legislators, so i think there's been a lot of dialogue on this, and let's just get this done. this is to move michigan forward. about more and better jobs and worker choice. >> thank you very much, governor. thanks for joining us on a busy day. obviously there on the capitol. we really appreciate it. >> thank you. joining me in the studio for her take on what we've just heard from governor snyder and also the current state of the fiscal cliff negotiations in washington is our colleague and friend ruth marcus from "the washington post." columnist for "the washington post." ruth, this whole issue in the midwest, this used to be most likely in the southern states, but this really is moving, and we're seeing a real decline in union household membership about half what it was 40 years ago. it used to be 24%. now it's 11.8%. >> unions are reeling, and the more states that enact measures
like this, the more unions will be reeling. their penetration, the private sector is something like 7% of the private sector work force is unionized, and i have to say -- i don't use words like this very often, i thought some of the governor's comments were kind of orwelian to suggest this was a pro-worker move. it's clearly a move that may help businesses, but what a kick in the teeth to autoworkers unions, who as you correctly point d out, gave a lot back to help the auto industry get back on its feet, the notion that we had to do this now with this lame-duck session because they raised it in some other proposition is bizarre to me, and the notion that this is ask autoworkers in michigan whether they would be better off with or without unions, of course, their bargaining position is stronger with unions, and -- but unions aren't going to survive when people have a choice whether that anttis up the dues or to get the benefit of being free
riders. it's going to be very difficult for the union movement to continue. >> ruth, let me ask you about the fiscal cliff because within the hour john boehner was on the floor and said his meeting was nice. >> cordial. >> where are the cuts? both sides saying that the other has not been specific enough about what they're willing to put on the table. the calendar now is the real enemy. they have to get some kind of outline together or else it's going to be a legislative agreement to create another commission and tregers down the road, and that is going to freak the markets. >> we'll see how freaked the markets get. you may have better insight into that than i do. also, it's not just the calendar is an enemy. the desire to have the other side take the leap first is the enemy, and also, i think keep your eye on the debt ceiling. the president's desire to wrap this in the republicans desire to kick that can down the road and have perhaps more leverage in later debt ceiling negotiations could end up also being something that makes it
very difficult to reach closure here by the time we all want to go away for the holiday. >> you can say that again. ruth marcus, thank you so much. >> joining me now to discuss the chances of us getting home for the holidays and getting a deal is senator kent conrad, the budget chair and involved in all these negotiations for seven years now, senator. is there light at the end of this tunnel? >> i think there is. there needs to be. you know, what a mistake it would be to kick this can down the road. the markets wouldn't accept it. we all know that the most distinguished economists in the country have said if we do that, we're going to go back into recession. we're going to see unemployment rise to over 9%. we're going to see an economic slowdown. that would just be a serious mistake. look, we have a chance to get this right, to do a big package on both sides to negotiate up, so that the republicans accept the president's revenue, the president accepts the republicans' spending cuts, and you put it all together in a package, you save $4 trillion,
and you get the debt going down, and i believe you would spur a tremendous economic spurt. >> what are you hearing as to the possibility of a grand bargain? you said earlier that you thought it was even possible. i know so much work has been done, but is the debt ceiling and foregoing that leverage, is that the deal breaker for the republicans? >> you know, i don't think it is. when i talked to republican colleagues, and i talk to them a lot, what they're interested in is if there is a package that includes the kinds of spending changes that they believe are necessary to get us on a sounder fiscal footing, and, you know, they are half right. the democrats are half right when we say we need more revenue. both sides are all right when they say you need a package that puts the two together, and, you know, what -- that's what you see, i think, in the mainstream of political thought in the senate and the house. of course, the extremes, they're
the loudest voices. they say no, no, never. we got to get over that. this is our time. this is our chance to do something important for the country. >> can you get there? can you make enough cuts to put on the table if you don't raise the eligibility age, let's say, for medicare, because that's something that one of your colleagues has been working very closely. dick durbin seemed to be ruling out on "meet the press" on sunday. >> absolutely. if you don't raise the retirement age on medicare, you can still save $500 billion over the next ten years, which is not quite what the republicans are asking for, and some are in between, but the president has called for and what they say they need. $500 billion is 4% of what we're going to spend over the next ten years on health care. we can't save 4%? of course, we can. the discretionary cuts that are being discussed, $300 billion, that, too, is 4% of what we're
going to spend over the next ten years. we can do this. we can do it. >> excuse me. i didn't mean to interrupt. when you see the president sort of going radio silent and moderating his tone in his speech in detroit yesterday, when you see john boehner saying the meeting was nice, but we were still waiting to hear what the president is putting on the table, what he is clearly trying to keep the troops in sort of reigned in and not have any open rebellion on the house floor, does the mood music tell you that something real is going on behind the scenes? >> look, i'm not in the room, so i can't say with certainty, but i am very hopeful that they are making progress and, look, it would be wise on their part not to come too quickly with a deal because that would give all the interest groups a chance to get organized and try to kill it, and we know that on the right, on the left special interest groups are just salivating at the chance to attack any agreement, because, look, any
agreement is going to have controversy attached to it. here we are. we are spending 31 cents of every dollar of bore progressing 31 cents of every dollar that we spend. any deal will have to have controversy attached to it. the sooner you reveal the details, the sooner all the interest groups organized to try to kill it. >> senator, briefly, what day do you think this will come together? not too soon? not too late? the sort of goldilocks moment? >> about tuesday of next week. >> okay. i'll be there. i hope i'm there, and i don't see you on christmas eve here in washington, senator. thank you very much. >> you bet. >> appreciate your coming. >> up next, we'll be hearing from big labor. the head of the uaw and jesse jackson in michigan. has america's war on drugs failed? this is andrea mitchell reports only on msnbc. ♪ they never give you credit ♪ it's enough to drive you crazy ♪ go over 2000... go over 2000... 1200 calories a day.
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michigan has long been the heart of the american labor movement. for more on this latest battleground now to keep their union rights, bob king, president of the united autoworkers joins me from lansing along with, of course, the reverend jesse jackson, founder and president of the rainbow push coalition and a long-time advocate for labor rights. thanks to both of you. very much good to see you again. i just talked to michigan's governor rick snyder, and this is what he had to say about the rationale for this legislation, which he says he is going to sign. >> we have had a number of people that said they would like to choose to join the union or have the flexibility not to, and they believe they'll get better account at for unions. could be a positive for unions over the longer term. >> could i ask you to respond on what of the uaw to what the governor just told me? >> yeah, a bunch of mularkey
really. the governor knows that people in the uaw under our constitution have a right to be in the union or not. under federal law people have a right to be in the union or not. the question is do people in the community -- if you are in a city and they pick up the trash, they have police or fire, everybody pays taxes. when are you in a union or workplace, you get representation and procedure, bargaining, and you pay your fair share of the costs of that representation. >> what will be the effect of this? is it going to bust the union and change the life of workers in michigan forever? >> it is going to bust the unions. these workers have been pushed over the cliff. it's not for michigan only. we see plants closing and jobs leaving and workers busted. the kind of deterioration coming in. workers must strike back in measure. a major one-day workers strike
and marshall washington for jobs and justice. too much poverty. too many unemployed people. each of us must fight. workers deserve to be at the bargaining table. >> bob king, what will be the immediate affect on the uaw? >> you know, i'm not worried about the immediate effect on the uaw. i'm worried about the impact on society. this has to be seen as part of a right wing agenda. this lame-duck they're not just attacking labor, but limits. they're attacking teachers and schools. they're attacking everything that is good for working families. this right-wing agenda has to be staffed. labor, civil rights, faith community, lgbt, environmentalists, all of us got to come together and stand up for an america that has prosperity for everybody. not just for ceos and the greedy few at the top. >> this is a states rights struggle fundamentally that they sought to suppress the vote in the fall. they fought to suppress wages
now, and so we must -- it's a struggle between the right to organize. more union states rights. i have convinced workers must stand up because unless they fight back in a big way, michigan will metastacize. >> of course, their argument is this is good for business and good for workers because there will be more jobs than indiana has gained jobs and gained businesses by taking this route. i just want to give you a chance to respond. >> that's bologne. epi just came out with a study today, and there's been a lot of studies done in oklahoma. right to work does not help new businesses come in. right to work lowers wages both for union, nonunion members. it lowers benefits. it lowers health care. right to work is bad for working families. >> it's the right to work for less. they are still fighting for the right to corporate greed to take jobs and cheap labor markets so they can get right to work law states in indonesia and china and then made right to work law here. it means it's a gap between the
wealth and the workers. workers have a right to expect liberal wages, health care, education care, the right to vote protected, and educate their children. these rights are reasonable and should be enforced. >> reverend jackson, you and i have known each other a long time. did you ever think you would be in michigan leading a protest against right to work? >> i really did not. i think that the tea party has 150-year-old roots between what is -- the right it organize, collective bargaining and states rights. i never thought it would go this far north, and, yet, these workers in this state must fight back and draw a line in the sand. that's why i'm going to address a major one-day strike, maybe a one-day march on washington for massive and action to bring about the ship in the flow of the wind. >> reverend jesse jackson, bob king from the united autoworkers. thank you very much. i know it's a cold day.
thanks for joining us from michigan. >> thank you. and let's make a deal. can president obama and the speaker get it done? we'll ask our experts coming up next. plus, the latest intelligence on syria's chemical weapons stockpile from defense secretary leon panetta who flew to kuwait today. you can't leave the table till you finish your vegetables. [ clock ticking ] [ male announcer ] there's a better way... v8 v-fusion. vegetable nutrition they need, fruit taste they love. could've had a v8. or...try kids boxes! could've had a v8. to the best vacation sp(all) the gulf! it doesn't matter which of our great states folks visit. mississippi, alabama, louisiana or florida, they're gonna love it. shaul, your alabama hospitality is incredible. thanks, karen. love your mississippi outdoors. i vote for your florida beaches, dawn. bill, this louisiana seafood is delicious. we're having such a great year on the gulf, we've decided to put aside our rivalry. now is the perfect time to visit anyone of our states.
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but when i was in an accident... i was worried the health care system spoke a language all its own with unitedhealthcare, i got help that fit my life. so i never missed a beat. that's health in numbers. unitedhealthcare. the showdown over right to work legislation in michigan could cause a ripple effect across the country with major implications for working class families and for elected officials who represent them. joining me now is democratic strategist debbie dingell and michael steele, msnbc political analyst and former republican national chairman. thanks to both of you. debbie, you just saw what was happening in your home state. i know you are back and forth to michigan all the time. what is the importance to this vote and of what governor snyder says he is going to sign tomorrow? >> i don't think people recognize how this has torn our state apart. the governor up until thursday of last week kept saying that this issue was not on his
agenda. i don't think he understands, this was a governor that was trying to bring people together, claimed he was trying to bring people together. labor and management had made very significant strides. you saw it when they worked together on the auto -- helping the auto industry. michigan is going to be torn apart for the next two years until the election in november of 2014 where you will see some kind of ballot initiative, without question, and i don't know what else will happen between now and then in terms of political options. it is going to tear the state apart in ways that none of us ever thought would happen. it is going to make it very difficult to move forward in many, many fronts. >> well, michael steele, as a former party leader and as a smart political analyst, why was this something that the republicans is and michigan wanted to buy into just as the republican party is rethinking how to be more broad-based. >> that's a curious question. to ms. dingell's point, i have heard republicans in michigan reflect that exact sentiment she
reflected about the concern going forward of how this is perceived by the public, more importantly, and how it plays out politically for republicans, as you know. the legislature elects every two years, so there's, you know, some concern about the control you have today you may lose tomorrow if this is not smartly addressed, and i think what the governor says in fraeming the arguments going forward to the people of michigan, putting in context both the economic and the political consequences of his decision to suddenly do this because this did come out of left field. he i don't think anyone expected this on the ground there in michigan as they went into the lame-duck session. a number of folks lost elections, who are now voting on this piece of legislation for the next two years, so there's a lot here that i think analysts are going to be looking at longer term and by that i mean over the next two years as ms. dingell pointed out, and to see what the alternate ram ficks are going to be. the political consequences are huge here because if this gets to stick at any measurable way, it does have a broader ripple
effect across the country. this is the 24th state that has right to work, so you will have other states looking at the michigan model which a lot of people are going to pay a lot of attention to. >> debbie, you know the auto industry very well. you used to work in the auto industry. did management push this, because management has successfully gotten give-backs from the union, and together they have, as you point out, worked with the government to revive the auto industry, so why is this the right time to do this? >> well, i got to be very careful here. the auto industry has made it very clear that they are neutral. i think privately and quietly they're very concerned about whether this is divisive in the timing of this and that they would rather see the governor and others focus on other things. business has not wanted to be drawn into the middle of this fight, or the larger businesses that have strong union memberships. perhaps that's one of the reasons this moved so quickly. businesses on the western side of the state, which tend to be more republican and anti-labor,
have been very strong pushers of this legislation, and quite frankly, dick devoss and the republican finance chair of the republican party have been instrumental in the politics of what changed the dynamics of this in the last week, and they've raised the money for the advertising campaign that you're seeing on television. what i think they underestimated is the passion that they unleashed. i went across this state over the weekend, and i cannot tell you, i heard working men and women say things i've never heard them say. they would not go to lansing and be marshalls because they didn't want anyone telling them what to say. school teachers were taking the day off because they were going to lansing to tell people what they thought. they take this as something very personal attacking working men and women in our state. nationally this is ground zero. you are going to see a lot of attention on michigan the next two years. >> i was going to say, very quickly, i think it also says something about the union leadership at large as well.
i think a lot of this creeping up on unions around the country, whether you are talking wisconsin and now michigan, is something that the union leadership needs to pay closer attention to, that this type of initiative actually has the groundswell within the legislature, republican or democratic-led, to move to the point where the governor is prepared to sign it. the political ripple effect of this goes much beyond just the economics and who, you know, shot or passed the bill, but it speaks to where labor as a movement in this country is at this point as well. >> indeed. s michael steele, debbie dingell -- final words, debbie? >> i was going to make one point. why are they not taking this to the people and letting the people vote on it, and they're very afraid of a vote by the people. they've used a parliamentary maneuver to make it more difficult to put it on the ballot. many business people said let the people vote on it, and they're afraid of the people voting on this. >> we're going to have to leave it there. thank you so much. thanks, debra dingell and
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♪ boo! i am the ghost of meals past. when you don't use new pam, this is what you get. residue. [ female announcer ] bargain brand cooking spray leaves annoying residue. that's why there's new pam. in syria the civil war continues involve aing complicated mix of rebel fighters, including groups on both sides of the battleground. today designated by the united states as terrorist groups. nbc's chief foreign correspondent richard engel is in turkey near the syrian border having just come out. you were in aleppo and saw the damage. heartbreaking reporting, richard, and now today the united states has taken this sort of confusing step in that they have designated the front as an al qaeda supported group. al qaeda in iraq as well as some of the assad regime militias. is that going to have any impact, and what are the rebel fighters telling you about this?
>> the rebel fighters say that this is a little bit too late coming from the united states, that the united states hasn't been part of this uprising since the beginning, and that the united states is now almost two years in coming into, say, some of the people who are actually fighting along side the syrians are terrorists while the united states and nato are really just sitting on the side looilines. it would be like declaring one member of a staff a terrorist, but not everyone else. tease people work together. all of the different rebel groups will fight along side each other. they coordinate. sometimes they fight among themselves, but to see the united states, which is really sitting on the sidelines, come in now and trying to play rebel politics, it is certainly something that the opposition does not welcome. >> of course, the u.s. is concerned about what they're seeing in libya, according to all reports, that some of the weapons that were supplied through middle men have now gotten to terror groups. they're concerned about tracking
the weapons and about possible blowback depending what kind of regime replace assad because no one thinks this regime will survive, whether it takes weeks, months, or a year. no one really thinks and you are a lot closer to it than all of us that assad is going to survive. >> it doesn't seem like assad is going to survive. when i went in a few days ago, i wasn't sure as well if he had a few more days, if he had a few more weeks. i don't think that this is going tolg very quickly. i would say a few more months. i explained this to -- or described it to one of our editors that imagine there's a big iceberg or a big wedge of ice and you are chipping at it with an ice pick. initially you just get tiny little flakes. eventually big chunks start to come off, and chunks are now coming off. the assad regime is breaking apart. rebel units are being -- are winning and taking over real military bases, but they are still not destroying the regime as of yet. i would say it has some time to
go. >> richard engel, thank you so much, richard. thank you. thanks for all your reporting from over there. one major concern, of course, has been assad's stockpile of chemical weapons, which president obama warned last week that he should not use or else risk the consequences. defense secretary kenya commented today. >> i would like to believe he has the message. we have made it pretty clear, and others have as well. it's also clear that the opposition continues to make gains in syria, and our concern is that if they feel like the regime is, you know, threatened with collapse that, they might resort to these kinds of weapons. >> washington post david ignacious joins me. you have been reporting inside syria and throughout the region. what is the appropriate course for the administration? the president trying to warn
assad, but what are the military consequences? what is he really willing to do if those chemical weapons were used? >> well, i think the military planners have been working on that for many weeks trying to think how would the u.s. intervene? obviously, the intervention would come from syria's neighbors. turkey and nato ally might request u.s. military assistance to deal with chemical weapons. jordan to the south might do the same. it would be a very difficult operation. my sources -- this is on the rebel side tell me that they believe there are nine to 15 different basic locations, but they're also believed to be mobile facilities that transport chemical weapons around for battlefield autos, so this is a very, very difficult problem. the administration has consistently said -- this has been the loudest statement they've made, that any use of
chemical weapons will not be tolerated, and it will trigger u.s. military intervention. what's left out is that if assad should fall, the u.s. would also want to make sure that those chemical weapons are under very close safeguards, and that's one factor driving the new concern about extremists among the syrian opposition. >> what is the real -- is that the real reason the impact of the designations today, which involved both the rebel fighters, the militias loyal to assad, and what we're hearing from rebel glupz that have talked to perhaps to you as well and to richard engel is that they think they are among the best fighters, and they want to know why is the u.s., you know, targeting them for this designation, symbolic or otherwise? >> my reporting from inside syria tracks that of richard engel, one of the best correspondents around.
the al nusra fighters are the -- as one commander told me near aleppo, these are our best fighters. they ask only for a chance to die and they'll take on assignments that other fighters won't. my sources tell me that the doctors who treat the wounded among rebel fighters find a very large number of al-nusra fighters among the dead and wounded. in other words, they're really in the forefront of this battle, and that's why the free syrian army resents the u.s. coming in late and saying we're ruling these guys out. i'm not sure the u.s. has an alternate, but it is resented. >> david ignatius, thank you for being with us today. up next, rocky mountain high as pot use becomes legal in colorado. we'll talk with an award-winning
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for more information including cost support options, call 1-888-xarelto or visit goxarelto.com. for more information including cost support options, oh, let me guess --ou see this? more washington gridlock. no, it's worse -- look, our taxes are about to go up. not the taxes on our dividends though, right? that's a big part of our retirement. oh, no, it's dividends, too. the rate on our dividends would more than double. but we depend on our dividends to help pay our bills. we worked hard to save. well, the president and congress have got to work together to stop this dividend tax hike. before it's too late. in that time there've been some good days. and some difficult ones. but, through it all, we've persevered, supporting some of the biggest ideas in modern history. so why should our anniversary matter to you? because for 200 years, we've been helping ideas move from ambition to achievement.
and the next great idea could be yours. ♪ . america's public enemy number one in the united states is drug abuse. >> 1971, president nixon launching the war on drugs. more than 40 years and $1 trillion later, 45 million arrests, 2.3 million prisoners, the u.s. has the world's highest rate of drug abuse. weights going on here? the cost of the drug war both economic and human is the subject of a fascinating new documentary by award-winning director eugene derekki. the house i live in. painting a detailed portrait of the history and the impact of america's longest war. filmmaker eugene joins me now. it is a great pleasure. congratulations. big award at sundance. why did you take this on, this subject? this is a subject that most americans choose to ignore,
those who are not directly affected. >> sure. strangely, i would say it's the largest human rights crisis we have here in the continental united states. you know, we have targeted a cross-section of our population, drug users most ochbt nonviolent people, and created out of them the world's largest prison population. that tore up my heart. it's something i saw happening particularly to black americans, and that really moved me to want to look more into it. >> some of us have been aware of the disproportionate sentencing, but within the sort of mainstream culture we don't pay a whole lot of attention to this subject that you are really zeroing in on. it's a human rights crisis. it's a fiscal burden, surely, but it is a real crisis for large communities. this is one of the prisoners. let's take a look at one segment of the film, kevin, who is one of those imprisoned. >> i start my 14th year in just a couple of months, and i will be here until i die.
>> yeah. i have not been paroled of three ounces of methamphetamine. >> how much is that? >> it would fit in a small envelope. if you had been busted for two prior drug charges, smoked pot, or having pot, or methamphetamine, whatever it is, and then you get a trafficking charge, they give you life without parole. it's mandatory. life without parole. >> it's that three strikes you're out deal, which is so shocking when you look at the disproportion alty of it. >> kevin is the changing face of the drug war. here you have not what you would think of as the usual target of the drug war. black people have been the primary target. here you have a middle-aged white person from oklahoma who found himself having a third non-violent offense that put him in jail not just for life, but life without parole. now you have a non-violent person who will go to jail for the rest of their life and never get out, and you have murderers down the hall who will get out in ten to 15 years. it's that kind of dysfunction this system no longer makes any sense, which is why a growing number of voices is a real movement now to say enough is enough. >> what are the costs to our
society? >> the costs are immense. i mean, first of all, you have the economic costs. this is tens of billions that we spend that are just thrown into a hole in the ground because people like to say this is a business. that part of the reason the prison industrial complex can sort of call the shots here is that it's such a look ravsh business. well, jobs do depend on it, and, yes, it is a business in the sense that i casino is a business, but it's not a business in the sense that it makes a product. it doesn't move the country forward. all we're doing is incarcerating poor people in this country and profiting from their incarceration, and having jobs rely on that. i think that's an immoral kind of business. i don't believe in that as a business. i would like to see all those people who work in that field have the same kind of job, but in a treatment compassion-based universe. all those prison guards that have been dealing for addicts for years who know how to keep them away from their addiction, wouldn't they rather have a job they would be proud to tell their child about where they're working for the betterment of a person? we have gone about this in a wrong-readed way, made an industry out of something that should have always been a public health matter. >> you speak of the prison
guards. mike carpenter was one of the prison guards interviewed. let's look at this clip. >> we made drugs into this huge thing, and we've made it so illegal and we've made it such a marshall issue with that tough on crime stance, you can't electriced if you don't do things to be tough on crime. >> toughen sentences, beef up law enforcement, and build new prison space for 24,000 inmates. >> you know, nobody can apoured to be the first guy to say, wait a minute, we can't afford what we're doing. let's do something different because if you even made a noise like you were going to be soft on crime in any way, you would be out of a job. >> you will be put away and put away for good, three strikes, and you are out. >> it's bipartisan. you cannot be a political leader in this country, successfully at the national level and talk about being more compassionate
towards drug users and sellers. >> it's changing because after 40 years of total failure, it's almost political suicide to stand up for the war on drugs anymore. you didn't hear the candidates talk about it in the election. they don't go near it. where pole tigs, as you see, used to live on it. they used to want to talk war on drugs all the time because they could be tough on crime. well, if tough on crime turns out to have been a costly disaster that's only hurting people and not, you know -- we have not curbed our drug use. we remain as drug-using and as drug-abusing a country as ever, and so abusing country as ever and with that failure you see grover norquist against the war on drugs. chris christie, joining with common cause like russell simmons against it. this i see that it's economically not sustainable and a practical failure and so the end of the drug war i think is coming. the question is how we'll move to the next place. something like tax and regulate. something that smart countries like portugal got a huge lead in and huge success.
it's going to hit your desk tomorrow. are you still determined to sign it? >> yes, i am. again, it had reached critical mass in terms of being a divisive issue in our state. >> governor rick snyder saying he will sign it and it's passed so it's going to the governor's desk. what political story will make headlines in 24 hours? jonathan capehart joins us now. >> good afternoon. >> this michigan labor fight is engaged and do you think that this could mean the further weakening of the labor movement across the country? >> well, as my colleague ruth marcus said in an interview with you earlier in the hour, she believes so and how could it not? michigan is 24th state to approve a right to work
provision and this makes it possible for nonemploy e unions to not have to pay union dues. and that's how unions -- that's how unions survive. and thrive. so, yeah. this is going to be something that we're going to be talking about tomorrow and in the months and probably years to come. i can't remember who said it to you earlier. also, in the program today that, you know, michigan could be the model for the country. >> something that the uaw and its supporters do not want to take place. jonathan, of course we don't know whether tomorrow's the day when we have a resolution of the fiscal cliff. kent conrad said earlier it's too soon and involve -- permit too much time for the advocates to take time at it. thank you very much. we'll talk to you tomorrow i hope. that does it for this edition. tomorrow we have a big show. congresswoman rogers, chair of the house republican conference, former obama foreign policy
adviser, former pentagon advis r adviser, "the washington post" eugene robinson and oliver stone. tamron hall is right here. >> hey there, andrea. great to be in d.c. an it is your town. we'll talk about when's happening. another town, michigan. in fact, the state of michigan, of course, following the breaking news. the state legislature just gave final approval to right to work bills despite a massive turnout from protesters. this event is still going on. i'll talk with michigan congressman levin and the focus of the "news nation" gut check. should alor concede on things like right to work in favor of collective bargaining? that's a big question we're posing to you. just in the couple of hours, house speaker john boehner slammed the president saying americans are wondering when the president will get serious when wh it comes to the fiscal cliff talks. meanwhile, nbc's first read team says any deal reached should be a fragile one or could be.
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